The Language of Native American Baskets The Weaver's View The Weaver's View
Introduction The Weavers' View Techniques, Tools & Workplaces The Weavers' Aesthetic Burden Baskets A Set of Values Basketmaking Associations
Lisa Telford
Pat Courtney Gold
Julia Parker & Sherrie Smith-Ferri
Terrol Johnson
Theresa Hoffman
  “Our people were moved from a traditional place to reservations, and during that move we lost a lot of our culture. We lost variation, skills, especially basketry, and it took a hundred years to get it back. So there is some pain there for us.”
— Pat Courtney Gold, Wasco Tlingit
  Pat Courtney Gold

In spring 2003, the Museum invited Pat Courtney Gold and four other Native basket-makers and one Native basketry scholar to a two-day seminar to review this exhibition in its early stages. All of them expressed their strong wish to present basketry as a living art, with strong links to cultural history. To help illustrate this continuity, Pat chose these four baskets from the Museum’s collections and paired them with baskets from her own and other Plateau basket-makers’ contemporary works.

Pat Courtney Gold is enrolled in the Wasco Nation of the Warm Springs Confederacy. After pursuing a career in mathematics and computer science, in the early 1990s she turned her attention to basketmaking. Since then, she has exhibited her baskets in museums and galleries throughout the United States and has curated several basketry shows. Harvard University’s Peabody Museum recently commissioned her to write an essay on the Wasco basket collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and to create a contemporary Wasco basket for their collection. Pat seeks to preserve basketry techniques and traditional designs unique to the Columbia River area. At the same time, her life and work reflect contemporary Native American realities. "I enjoy experimenting with new fibers and trying variations on old designs," she explains. "I'm sure if my ancestor basket weavers were transplanted into this century, they would be inspired to do the same."

The Weaver’s View

Native art cannot be separated from culture and tradition. Historically, commerce and trade was very important among the people along the Columbia River. The rivers connected all the nations who used canoes, much as we use cars to travel the highways. The trade center, Nixluidix, a Wasco–Wishram town, was very much like our shopping malls.

Baskets were used to collect, store, and trade food items. The baskets were made to standard sizes, roughly equal to pint, quart, gallon, and 2-gallon volumes, so that trade goods like pemmican, berries, wapato tubers, camas bulbs, and bitterroots could be measured. Even today, baskets are used for root and food gathering, storage of dried foods and personal items, and as gifts at festivals and give-aways.

Many basketry images represented the environment—salmon, sturgeon, people, condor, mountains, and water. Abstract images include sturgeon roe, fawn spots, and salmon gills. Traditional designs are handed down from family to family and sometimes from tribal nation to weavers. Native elders are living museums. They pass on the weaving traditions, techniques, and designs.

The twined cornhusk bag with geometric images, the Klikitat coiled basket with its traditional shape, and the cedar-bark and sedge-grass Chinook basket are beautiful examples of the continuation of 12,000 years of Native heritage and tradition.
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